November 19, 2019

In Pursuit of Lifelong Learning

“Let me begin with an image. It is of an old-fashioned beam balance of the sort that blind Justice is often portrayed as holding. Its very appearance tells us what it is to be accurate. What I want you to imagine is that part of your visual system is like such a balance. When you discriminate colours correctly, it tilts just the right amount; when you discriminate them incorrectly, it tilts too much or too little. When it is generally in the first condition, so that you do discriminate colours correctly, Aristotle says that it is in a ‘perceptual mean’.

Imagine that your other senses are like that too. If the relevant part of each was in the mean, they would all be good and accurate discriminators of colours, sounds, tastes, smells and feels. Now imagine each of those five small balances registering their tilts, their inputs, with one large central balance (roughly what Aristotle calls ‘the common sense’). It constructs out of them a multisense picture of the three-dimensional world of objects that are coloured, make sounds, have tastes and smells, textures and temperatures, occupy places, and trace out continuous spatiotemporal paths, as they move around causally interacting with each other and ourselves. This is the world of substances – ousiai as Aristotle calls them. You, their perceiver, are also one of them.

When we perceive white, and our colour perceptual system is in a mean, our perception is quite reliable, but when we perceive that the white thing ‘is this, or something else, error is possible’. In these cases, the ‘this, or something else’ is a coincidental perceptible, such as the son of Cleon, whom we perceive ‘not because he is the son of Cleon, but because he is white, and the white thing is coincidentally the son of Cleon’. It is a person’s perception of coincidental perceptibles that fear or some other appetite or feeling can distort, so that he ‘seems, even from a very slight resemblance, to see his enemy’ or, if he is in love rather than in danger, his beloved.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"The top brass of China’s Communist Party (CCP) – its 370-strong Central Committee – recently emerged from the Fourth Plenum of the 2017 Party Congress. Such meetings, usually one a year, are key forums for policy discussion. At the previous..."

"Mayor Pete is having his moment — for the second time in the campaign. Surging to the head of the pack in a recent Iowa poll, and edging out Vice President Joe Biden in last quarter's money race, Buttigieg is staking his claim to being the..."

"careful reading of Walden; or, Life in the Woods makes it clear that Thoreau never intended his cabin to be a solitary hermitage, although fans and detractors alike often misunderstand this. It was more an author’s workshop than a fortress of..."

"In the fall of 2015, a rash of posters appeared around Copenhagen. One, in pink letters laid over an image of chicken eggs, asked, “Have you counted your eggs today?” A second — a blue-tinted close-up of human sperm — inquired, “Do they swim too..."

"While there’s plenty of disagreement about how the money should be used, almost everyone involved in public-policy debates agrees that it would be good if the federal government could collect more revenue without raising tax rates or reducing..."

"On a brisk November night, a solitary man wandered around the plaza outside the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts on the edge of downtown. He had just flown alone from New York to see his favorite comic, Louis C.K., and he had an extra..."

"Judaism has been described as many things: a culture, a people, a religion, a nationality, and more (including, according to answers given to the 2013 Pew survey of American Jews, a culinary disposition for bagels and smoked salmon or the..."

"US sex education is decades behind other countries. Right now, it isn’t even mandatory in every state. Add to that the awkwardness people feel about sex and bodies in general, top it with the idea of having to have these discussions in public..."